The Most Important Lesson You Will Ever Teach!

what-does-that-word-mean-notesWhen I first wanted to teach I wanted to only teach reading.  And that was the certification I was looking to get, but as fate would have it I put in the wrong code for the test and ended up taking, passing and getting a 4th – 8th generalist certification.  My first year I was self-contained teaching all subjects, and after that mostly math, science, and social studies.  I am on my 12th year and finally for the last year and a half I am a reading teacher.  I was quite excited!  Once I started teaching I had an epiphany!   No matter what subject I was teaching I found myself teaching the same skill.  How to figure out what words mean?  In reading I teach this through context clues, Latin and Greek roots, and dictionary skills, but this is a major struggle across all subject areas.  The students don’t know what the words mean in the passages and the questions or have the tools to figure out what the words mean. (i.e. breaking words apart, vocabulary, etc.)  I found teaching context clues, dictionary skills, and roots in the upper elementary grades were not as major a focus that I hoped, we are asked to spiral or embed it into our lessons.  I also noticed on the standardized test that when a question asks what a word means, you know that there will be clues in the text to help answer that question.  But what about the other words, and other subjects where the words can keep the kids from determining the correct concepts they already know.

However, we are continually asked why are there such major gaps with our readers?    Well it is their lack of vocabulary and background knowledge.  Teaching students how to figure out words when reading no matter what class has been the most important lesson I’ve taught.  Word study as part of my Literacy Block has been extremely beneficial in improving my student’s vocabulary.  I did have to do mini-lessons on context clues, dictionary skills, and root words that I revisit often.  I found myself trying every strategy I could find, Pinterest was a great help, but ultimately I had to teach it directly and I had to also think about the types of students I was teaching.  I made a lesson with notes and a worksheet which you can find in my store here:


Published by upperelementaryantics

Elementary Teacher for 15 years, I have taught in all content areas in various grades 4-6, and currently teach 5th grade ELAR/Social Studies, I am looking forward to sharing ideas, tips, and resources.

4 thoughts on “The Most Important Lesson You Will Ever Teach!

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